News

Dr. Ramaswami, Ashly McFarlane and Sam Tabory Present at ASEAN 3rd Annual Mayors Forum

August 16, 2017

SRN PI, Professor Anu Ramaswami, alongside staff research associates, Sam Tabory and Ashly (Spevacek) McFarlane, of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy presented at a technical workshop in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) 3rd Annual Mayors Forum in the Philippines, July 24-27. Professor Ramaswami also addressed the larger Forum audience as an invited plenary speaker.

The technical workshop was co-hosted by UNEP, United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific, and the League of Cities Philippines. Participants included elected officials, technical staff, and representatives of regional local government associations.

At the workshop, the research team presented strategies for resource-efficient urbanization and the development of compact, livable cities in Southeast Asia. The team also conducted interviews with mayors and urban development experts from Southeast Asian cities to better understand differences in local sustainability decision-making across the region.

Workshop participants engaged with critical regional urbanization dynamics including the projected growth of small and medium size cities in Southeast Asia. While mega-cities like Jakarta and Manila often monopolize the attention of sustainable development observers, much of the urban population growth that is projected to occur in Southeast Asia between now and 2050 will be in cities with fewer than 500,000 residents.

A key barrier to resource efficient urbanization both in Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, is a lack of coordinated planning across policy areas as well as different levels of government. Workshop participants identified the need to better link policy-making and planning processes across key sectors like economic development, housing, and transportation. Similarly, participants discussed the need for more collaboration and resource sharing both vertically and horizontally across government agencies at national, regional, and local levels.

ASEAN city officials at the Mayors Forum highlighted many examples of ongoing resource-efficient urbanization efforts across the transportation sector, building design, and renewable energy production. However, the workshop highlighted the challenges of best practice sharing across government agencies and local ASEAN governments. National and international resources for city officials, technical staff and other key personnel are available, however, the information is not always distributed effectively to the local level.

Energy, water-use, demographic, lifestyle and other key metrics that can inform city officials about where they are succeeding and where they might need to improve with respect to resource-efficient urbanization are not collected in most ASEAN cities. The benefits associated with collecting these metrics is not always apparent to  city officials, and data collection efforts of this type often require resource investments of both money and staff time, both of which are often constrained in many city governments. The is result is that data collection is often not prioritized by local administrations

The workshop was part of a process to prepare a report written in conjunction with UNEP on urban infrastructure transitions in Southeast Asia. Key findings from the workshop, including barriers to resource-efficient urban development and strategies to address these barriers, will be incorporated in the final report. The report is scheduled for release in late 2017.

The ASEAN Mayors Forum released a video that highlights the discussion during the two day event. It can be viewed here.